Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Filmmakers Ash Christian and Lisa Gornick at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival; photo by Val PhoenixThe Authorial Voice

Ticktock Lullaby
Fat Girls

Two films by writer/director/star triple threats premiered at the festival with Lisa Gornick's feature and the debut by 21-year-old Ash Christian. By chance, the two filmmakers ran into each other outside the screening of the latter [see photo] and chatted re: the perils of directing oneself. Both confessed to being control freaks. There is a touch of the Woody Allen about this approach, with a strong authorial voice appearing in both which can polarise opinion. One person's quirkiness is another's self-indulgence.

My responses to these two were certainly polarised. I warmed to Fat Girls' outsider triumphs over adversity portrayal of small-town America, while Tick Tock Lullaby left me cold as I waited for something to happen. Its tale of a self-obsessed lesbian couple trying to have a baby exhausted my patience when after 20 minutes the couple (played by Gornick and Raquel Cassidy) were still agonising over whether to go ahead. Some would be charmed by Gornick's interior monologues and recurring cartoons to depict her inner turmoil. I was annoyed.

Fat Girls featured a motley crew of geeky fat gay boy, fat straight girl and Cuban refugee all stranded in a dead-end Texas town full of rednecks and closet cases. The director takes the lead role of Rodney, called Chub by his devout Christian mother, who lusts after the cool English kid at school and gives secret blow jobs to the football captain in the closet. Much of it is played for laughs and the experience of being the uncool kid at school probably resonates with many people. It did for me. The film, shot on mini DV, is certainly rough around the edges, with unbeautiful cinematography and a few lapses in pace. However, Christian certainly has made his mark and the characters will apparently be reappearing in a new series for MTV.

Good Doc/Bad Doc

The Railroad All-Stars
Mirror Mirror

More sublime to ridiculousness in two feature-length documentaries. Railroad All-Stars is an astounding piece of film-making from Spanish director Chema Rodriguez, about a football team formed by prostitutes in Guatemala City to highlight the discrimination facing them. Rodriguez has a sympathetic eye and her camera always seems to be on hand when something eventful happens, which it does often, as they are kicked out of their league, argue among themselves and personal relationships deteriorate among the team. So many big personalities are on hand that it is difficult to follow sometimes and my only complaint was that the names were only shown onscreen once rather than repeated during the 90 minutes.

Among the teammates are Vilma and Lupe, who break up and reunite at least once during the story. Team captain Valeria visits her gang member boyfriend in jail. Mercy has left behind her children in El Salvador and Carol is being abused by her male partner. The team coach is the flamingly gay Kimberly, who has his own story, too. Rodriguez has a bounty of material and yet constructs a clear narrative as the team goes on a national tour and then heads for a match in El Salvador. I found myself rooting for them in their matches and willing them to succeed. Sadly, there is no Hollywood ending for these women as a coda informs us of what happened once the cameras stopped rolling. Life for sex workers is bleak and they are no exceptions.

Mirror Mirror, by contrast, takes a fascinating subject, the poly-gendered Wotever Club in London, and manages to make it extremely dull by using an interactive approach in which the subjects, including the club promoter Ingo and some of the performers, were invited to give their feedback on Zemirah Moffat's film as it was being made. This results in some of the most self-conscious, over analysed and processed filmmaking I've seen. All the life is squeezed out of this film and it drags badly. Patrick Stewart lookalike Lazlo Pearlman offers some unintentional comedy when he says he finds the project highly intellectual. Moffat says at one point in her voiceover that she finds that the characters are becoming aspects of her desire. But there is precious little desire on show.

Also viewed:

Itty Bitty Titty Committee

Finally, a Riot Grrrl film, if only 15 years late.

With Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy, Le Tigre and Sleater Kinney on the soundtrack and a plotline featuring an underground radical feminist group, it's not your usual fare. Baby dyke Anna hooks up with the feminist activist group CiA for actions, while falling for the alluring leader Sadie at the same time. But, there's a problem... Plenty of dyke drama ensues.

The cameos by famous dykes like Guin Turner, Jenny Shimizu and Daniela Sea are a bit inside joke, but it is a solid and enjoyable piece of work cleverly juxtaposing politics and comedy. And certainly, the arguments, the political bickering and the passion ring true. Almost like Dykes to Watch Out For come to life.

As with The Perfect Ones (see LLGFF II), the feel is very early nineties. Really, just the group's website and mention of the Iraq war place it in the late noughties, rather than the early nineties. I wonder if the screenwriters had the idea years ago and just gave it a slight tweak to bring it up to date.

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